Engaging the Community to Effectively Plan and Implement Community-Based Mental Health Programs

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Community engagement is recognized as an effective means to maximizing public health program impacts despite challenges such as power imbalances that can undermine efforts. The value of engaging communities as equitable partners in the design and delivery of community-based programs has gained increasing traction over the last few decades. Most research in this area has been focused on partnerships between academia and communities, leaving a knowledge gap regarding engagement between community organizations and between community organizations and members. This paper presents a process evaluation that aimed to identify and describe factors found to impact and promote community engagement efforts within a multisite, multiyear, community-based prevention initiative. Findings highlight that strategies such as investing in trust-building efforts, engaging community influencers, and providing meaningful opportunities for community member involvement can help facilitate effective implementation. Recognizing the value and necessity of community engagement in community-based programming is an integral and continuous process.

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The Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research, v. 49, p. 149-161